Anchor Text Optimization: How to Create SEO-Friendly Links Using the Right Anchor Text
Link-building is a fundamental element of search engine optimization (SEO). Backlinks show search engines that your website is popular and offers value to its visitors. Internal links, on the other hand, help search engines and visitors alike discover new, relevant content. When building backlinks and internal links, though, it’s essential that you use the right anchor text.
What Is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is the visible text – words, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols – of a link that takes visitors to the linked web page when clicked. Whether it’s a backlink or internal link, all links have anchor text. When a visitor clicks any part of this text, his or her web browser will redirect them to the linked page or open a new window or tab in which it displays.
How Anchor Text Affects SEO
The primary purpose of anchor text is to help visitors understand what a linked page is about without visiting it. When a visitor encounters a link, he or she will probably look at the anchor text, as well as the context in which the link is used, to determine if they should click it. Therefore, using relevant anchor text drives targeted traffic and improves the user experience.
Search engines like Google and Bing also look at anchor text as part of their search ranking algorithm. When crawling the web, search engines analyze anchor text to determine which keywords frequently appear when linking to a particular page. If a page has several high-quality backlinks featuring a specific keyword as the anchor text, search engines may rank it higher for that keyword. Think of a backlink as a thumbs up for your website, someone saying “this website has great content. You should check it out!”. The more websites that are telling the search engines they like your website the better it is for yours.
Comparing the Different Types of Anchor Text
Hyperlinks must follow a specific HTML format that includes the HTTP or HTTPS prefix, followed by the linked page’s static web address. When creating anchor text, however, you are given more freedom over the format. Here are some of the most common types of anchor text:
- Naked URL: The most basic type of anchor text, a naked URL is nothing more than the URL of the linked page, such as https://www.google.com, Google.com or www.Google.com.
- Call to Action: Some webmasters use a call to action as the anchor text for their backlinks. This type of anchor text encourages visitors to take action, such as “click here, “read more,” “visit this site” or “buy now.” It’s common on landing pages where the primary goal is to drive direct traffic rather than increase the page’s search rankings.
- Generic: Anchor text is generic if it features a nondescript, irrelevant word or phrase, such as “here, “this page,” “website” or “blog.”
- Branded: As the name suggests, branded anchor text features a brand name as the visible part of a link. In most instances, the website’s brand name is used. For example, branded anchor text for a link pointing to Google may be “Google,” while the branded anchor text for an Amazon link may be “Amazon.” It differs from naked URL anchor text by removing the linked address’s prefix and suffix.
- Exact Match Keyword: One of the most popular types of anchor text among webmasters is the exact match keyword. Exact match keyword consists solely of the target keyword for which the webmaster is trying to optimize the linked page. A webmaster hoping to achieve higher search ranking for the keyword “dog training,” for example, may create links using the anchor text, “dog training.”
- Partial Match Keyword: Finally, a partial match keyword is a type of anchor text that features a variation of the target keyword. A webmaster may use the partial match anchor text, “how to train your dog” even if he or she is trying to rank primarily for the target keyword, “dog training.” Partial match anchor text typically consists of long-tail keywords that are closely related to the target keyword for which you want the linked page to rank.
Use Relevant Anchor Text
When creating links, use anchor text that’s relevant to the linked page. The anchor text should describe, to some degree, what the page is about so that users can decide if it’s worth visiting. It’s not uncommon for webmasters to use irrelevant anchor text, hoping that it will increase their search rankings for the keyword. Unfortunately, this promotes a poor user experience while offering little or no SEO value in return.
Don’t Overuse Exact Match or Partial Match Keyword Anchor Text
With Google’s Penguin 4.0 algorithm update in effect, you should use exact match and partial match keyword anchor text sparingly to avoid triggering a search ranking penalty. Like the original Penguin 1.0 update, Penguin 4.0 is designed to combat black-hat and other manipulative backlink-building strategies. Google’s algorithm also targets overuse of keyword-rich anchor text. If your backlink portfolio consists primary of exact match and partial match keyword anchor text, Google may assume that you are trying to manipulate your website’s search rankings, so it penalizes your site by lowering its search rankings.
Use More Naked URL and Branded Anchor Text
Rather than focusing your backlink-building efforts on exact match and partial match keyword anchor text, consider using more naked URL and branded anchor text. Since they don’t contain target keywords, they look more natural to search engines and, therefore, are less likely to trigger a search ranking penalty. A good rule is to use either a naked URL or branded anchor text for at least half of all your website’s backlinks. For internal links, keyword-rich anchor text is perfectly fine as long as it’s relevant to the linked page. It’s the anchor text for backlinks with which you should proceed with caution.
Let Other People Link to You
One of the best ways to create a diverse link profile is by letting other people build it for you. They’ll all do it in their own way. So, how do you get other people to link to your website? Build great content. Building high-quality content pages will encourage others to link to your resource. We did a great case study on how to build links by building statistics pages. We’ve received thousands of links from building just one great page.
Update Anchor Text to Increase Relevancy
Web pages are dynamic and often feature new or modified content. When a web page changes, however, the anchor text of any links pointing to that page may also require updating. During a recent Webmaster Hangout sessions, John Mueller, Google’s senior webmaster trends analyst, encouraged webmasters to update their anchor text to reflect more closely the content of the linked page.
Building links with SEO-friendly anchor text is just one step to achieving higher search rankings. It’s also crucial that you create high-quality content on your website. With the right link-building and content creation strategy, though, you’ll dominate Google’s and Bing’s search results.